Marina del Rey may be nestled between two neighborhoods that seem to get most of the attention — quirky Venice and the tech landscape of Playa del Rey — but it's not in any danger of being overshadowed: It's an ideal spot for a half-day getaway that conveniently takes you right to the water's edge.
As the largest man-made small-craft harbor in North America, Marina del Rey is an aquatic playground. Head over early to beat the crowds and to hit the calm, cool sea.
9 a.m. Book a beginner stand-up paddle-board lesson with Tim Sanford, owner of Paddle Method. Each hour-long lesson begins on the sand at Mother's Beach, at 4135 Admiralty Way.
"This is the best time to come, because the wind hasn't picked up and there are fewer people," Sanford said as he readied a 10-foot board. "The water is like glass."
During the lesson, the certified World Paddle Assn. instructor introduces students to the basics of kneeling, standing and walking on a paddle board. Then, it's time to get in the water and show off your skills. Don't worry, falling off means only that you get wet.
10 a.m. After your lesson, walk across the street to grab a caffeine boost at Buna at 552 Washington Blvd. Forgo your usual coffee and get something exciting instead like the Buna Miel, which comes with espresso, honey, cinnamon and the steamed milk of your choice.
10:15 a.m. Around here, there's only one appropriate way to get around: a scooter. With so many options, including Bird, Lime and probably others we have yet to hear about, you're bound to find a few around. Pick your brand, download its app and hop on for a ride around the marina to Fisherman's Village at 13755 Fiji Way. No scooter for you? Lyft or Uber (or enjoy the waterfront view on a walk that will take about 30 minutes.) If you're visiting after June 20, you have an even better option: Take a water taxi straight from Mother's Beach to Fisherman's Village for just $1.50.
10:30 a.m. Fisherman's Village is a place that time — and developers — have forgotten. Yes, it's kitschy, but that's what makes it so worth the visit. More reminiscent of Maine than California, the tiny strip offers several restaurants and cafes, including a tasty ice cream shop.
The village is best for taking Instagram-worthy photos, thanks to the vibrant buildings and a plentiful seal population seemingly ready and willing to take selfies. If you find yourself there on a Saturday, there's a farmers market, and there's live music on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the spring and summer.
11:30 a.m. Stop at the Marina del Rey Historical Society. It's a stellar opportunity to learn more about the history of the marina. Inside, visitors can peruse historical photos, a presentation, books and memorabilia. Best of all, it's free.
11:45 a.m. It's time to find another flock of Birds to unlock. Hop on and scoot your way back for lunch at Salt, at 13534 Bali Way.
Noon Not only does Salt offer some of the tastiest dishes this side of the 405 but it's also home to the best views of the marina. When making your reservation, ask for a table on the far end of the deck to get unobstructed views of the boats passing by. Since you're on the water and you've worked up a solid appetite, go ahead and order the fish and chips. You've earned it.